• When the State Tries to See Like a Family: Cultural Pluralism and the Family Group Conference in New Zealand

    Amy Cohen, Ilana Gershon (see profile)
    Law, Sociological jurisprudence
    Item Type:
    #ADR, #Samoan migrants, #family group conferences, Sociology of law
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    In 1989 New Zealand legislators revised their child welfare legislation, partially in response to M¯aori and Pacific Island critiques that the previous state-centered regime had failed to take into account their culturally distinctive techniques for being a family and had failed to support culturally specific practices of decision making and conflict resolution. Legislators instituted a new and increasingly popular form of alternative dispute resolution—the family group conference—in an attempt to create a bureaucratic response to family dysfunction that was capacious enough to allow for any and every family’s involvement. In the process, however, they continued to understand what counts as a family along nuclear family lines. Against the New Zealand lawmakers’ assumptions, this article illustrates how, in the context of transnational migration, Samoan families experience tensions between the nuclear family unit that lawmakers envision and their lived extended kinship groups. As extended families, Samoan migrant families’ goal is not to produce socially productive citizens for the nation-state, but rather to produce a transnational family reputation. Thus, despite the legislators’ efforts to create culturally sensitive forms for family conflict resolution, Samoan social workers and community counselors had to translate the legislative act for Samoan families, negotiating and managing the conflicting presuppositions of what it means to be a nuclear family embedded in the act and what it means to be an extended family for Samoans.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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